Sunday, 27 December 2009

BBC: Tim Franks Justifying Operation Cast Lead

Hi Tim,

Hope you're ok. I've just read your article
I find it extremely unbalanced. I'll explain why. Here is your article cut right down.

  • Story of Israeli woman of with head injuries from Palestinian rocket. (Occurred before Israeli offensive)

  • Offensive, drawing on Israeli ministers and Army, due to rockets since 2002.

  • Palestinian man with injuries from the Israeli offensive.

  • Justified attack with reduced numbers of rockets fired post offensive.
Attack Justified

You have neatly justified the Israeli attack last year and I'll guess that anyone reading this article might not notice where in time you started from for each side, (2002 - Israel, 2008 - Gaza), and will no doubt draw the conclusion that Gaza had it coming.

Gazans fire rockets towards Israel because that's what they do

There is no mention of the crippling blockade, the ongoing killing, arrests and the persecution of the people in the open-air prison that is Gaza. There is no mention from any Gazan official. A mention of the aid-convoy sitting at Egypt's border wouldn't have gone amiss.

If it was your intention to just write about the human suffering then you've failed miserably.

I hope you find time to balance your article.


Update - Reply from BBC's Tim Franks

From: Tim Franks
Sent: Sunday, December 27, 2009 3:29 PM
Subject: RE: Slow recovery from wounds of Gaza conflict


I'm sorry you were dissatisfied with the piece. It was an attempt to give, in a little more detail than is usual, the stories of two people who have been caught up in the conflict. It was in no way meant to be an all-encompassing guide to the war or the continuing problems. That has been covered, extensively, in the rest of our output, on the internet, radio and TV.


Further email to Tim Franks

Thanks Tim for your reply. It is much appreciated.

If you wanted to pick two people out, one from Gaza and one from Israel and tell their stories, that would be fine despite the fact that Palestinian casualties are many times higher than Israeli. But you go someway to explain Israel's stance in this piece and not Gaza's leaving the reader to think Israel did nothing to provoke the rocket attacks and therefore misleading them. I'm not wanting an "all-encompassing guide" just balance.

Will you address this imbalance please?


To BBC Complaints

Dear BBC,

I read your article about people caught up in the conflict [Cast Lead] and I
find that it is unbalanced and misleading.

Break down:
10,000+ rockets from Gaza, Israel officials say,
Story: Israeli woman Injured before Cast Lead,
Note on why Cast Lead was launched, Israeli officials again,
Story: Palestinian man injured during Cast Lead,
Fewer rockets launched post Cast Lead, Israeli army,

Now I do realise this isn't supposed to be an all-encompassing guide to the
conflict or indeed the wider conflict. It is supposed to be about two people
trying to heal and get on with their lives. But you go someway to explain
Israel's stance in this piece and not Gaza's leaving the reader to think
Israel did nothing to provoke the rocket attacks and therefore misleading

You should either leave anything of a political nature out or balance the
article with why some in Gaza feel "Forced" to fire rockets toward Israel.
eg/ crippling blockade.

The other point I'd like to make is about the Israeli woman you chose. She
was hurt prior to Cast Lead. She was not hurt in "the Gaza Conflict". She
was hurt in the wider ongoing conflict. Her testimony serves Israel's
reasons for their offensive whereas the Palestinian man's doesn't. I mean, why didn't you pick a Palestinian who had been injured which "Forced" someone to fire rockets into Israel?

The underlying tone of this piece echoes the Israeli line while leaving out
the Palestinian point of view. Please balance this article. I'd like a

Sunday, 13 December 2009

BBC: Obfuscating The Civilian Body Count in Iraq

Last week, ex-spy Chief Sir John Scarlett said of the alleged Iraqi WMD threat, "There was absolutely no conscious intention to manipulate the language or to obfuscate or to create a misunderstanding as to what this might refer to."

One has to ask a question of the BBC everytime they write about mortality in Iraq.

Here we have an article by Natalia Antelava for BBC News, "Who is counting the bodies in Iraq?"

"We don't do body counts." These were the words of Gen Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Straight from the off, we read the infamous lines of Gen Tommy Franks, a military man. You would be forgiven then in thinking that this article was about enemy deaths and not the loss of innocent life. The next couple of paragraphs do nothing to make this clear with the word civilian totally missing.

But more than six-and-a-half years after the invasion, the body count has become a critical measure of success and failure in Iraq.

In November, officials announced that violent deaths were at their lowest since 2003. That was an important example of progress in Iraq, according to the Iraqi government.
You wouldn't know it from this article but whenever anyone talks or writes about the number of Iraqi dead, they actually mean innocent civilians who have lost their lives in violent situations. In order for them to be counted, they have to be reported and verified.

The lives that are not counted are those who have died in non-violent situations that could have either been easily prevented or simply would not have occurred at all if it was not for the US led invasion. Diarrhea, malnutrition or leukemia from depleted uranium are just a few examples.

The BBC writes of the Iraqi government,

'Deaths matter'

But the government denies manipulating figures. "We are not lying, and I can guarantee you that the office of Prime Minister Maliki would never lie about the figures," said Mr Moutalibi, the government adviser."

There is no justification to distorting this kind of information. It's disrespectful. Every death, every person matters."
So I ask myself, why is the BBC so careless and thoughtless when it comes to reporting this matter?

The BBC have added the above, unnoticeable side table to their report. Again it misleads us with the title, "Counting the Dead" and then goes on to mistrepresent Iraq Body Count which just counts violent, media-reported, civilian deaths.

IBC doesn't say that, "94,705 - 103,336 civilians have died since the invasion", at all. This should read, "94,705 - 103,336 civilians have died violently since the invasion".

They should add a comment reflecting the words of IBC's founder John Sloboda mentioned in a BBC interview,

"We've always said our work is an undercount, you can't possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the deaths. Our best estimate is that we've got about half the deaths that are out there." -- John Sloboda, IBC

The side table goes on to confuse the issue further by juxtaposing the IBC's count with that of the Lancet's epidemiological study, which, produced a total figure for violent and non-violent civilian deaths. The two can't be compared without a proper breakdown or comment.

Then there is this graph which again has the misleading title. Sourced from Iraq Body Count, this should be entitled, "Violent Civilian Deaths...", as it doesn't include the non-violent figure.

The BBC writes:

"But violence, it seems, could still be dictating the rules of the game."
and that's all it is - a game indeed!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

BBC: Israeli settlements are a) legal b) illegal c) considered illegal?

Dear BBC,

I am writing to you to criticise and complain about the ambiguous wording you use, sometimes but not always, to describe the illegality of Israel's settlements in the Palestinian territories. Before I give you examples, let me thank you for your many articles that simply say settlements "are illegal".


1. "The settlements... are deemed to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this"

Google Search: "settlements "deemed illegal""
118 results

2. "Jewish settlements in the West bank, including East Jerusalem, are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this"

Google Search: "settlements "considered illegal""
203 results

It seems to me and many others, the use of words like 'deemed illegal', or 'considered illegal', only confuses the situation. This wording leaves it open in the readers' minds the extent to which the legal status is argued. You wouldn't write, "Rape is deemed to be illegal" or "Rape is considered to be illegal", would you?

You say on your page,

"The United States has in the past called the settlements illegal, but has more recently used milder language, at least in public."

Is it possible this "milder language" is rubbing off on the BBC?

You start this article,
"It is widely accepted that under international law, the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel are illegal"

Widely accepted? Again, to use an analogy, it is widely accepted that rape is illegal. By using the words, "widely accepted" - the inference one draws is a sizeable split of opinion on the matter when actually it is the international community, UN, EU and human rights and aid organisation's opinion, backed up by law and UNSC resolutions versus that of just some in Israel.

Please can you instruct your writers and presenters to stop including words that complicate, confuse or obfuscate the matter?

I would like a reply,

Best wishes,

Update: April 2010 - BBC Reply

Thank you for your comments regarding this line that we regularly use in our reports: “The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” I am sorry that we did not reply to your previous email.

We are dropping the use of the word “considered” in this context. The international law is clear on this matter, as the UN secretary general stated recently.


The arguments around the issue of the legality of the settlements are addressed in detail in a report commissioned by the BBC governors a few years ago

Thanks and best regards,

Tarik Kafala
Middle East editor
BBC News website

Saturday, 28 November 2009

BBC: Deepening western fears about Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

In this article,

the bbc writes:

"In September, it emerged that as well as its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran had a second such facility near the town of Qom. The revelation deepened Western fears about the country's nuclear ambitions."

Of course the bbc omits to tell us that when the UN inspectors visited the site they told us they found, "nothing to be worried about", and that it is just a, "hole in a mountain"

Could the BBC mention this? Of course they could. I've sent a complaint off. I'll publish my reply if I get one!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

BBC: Glossing over Palestinian loss of life

Dear BBC,

I am writing to complain about this report that appeared on your news website.

I am quite frankly disgusted how you quickly gloss over the killing and seizing of children. I can only imagine the terror of being shot at, diving for cover while bullets ricochet around me and watching my friends one by one get hit.

Your headline, "Palestinian killed on Gaza Border", is an absolute disgrace. It gives the reader a mental image of a Palestinian being shot 'on' the border and not in Gaza 'near' the border. It therefore gives the impression to some that they were a justified target. It is my belief the BBC does, inadvertently or not, tend to use ambiguous wording (not to be confused with impartial wording) in these cases which have the effect of favouring or excusing Israel.

After reading other reports from other sources including that of Israeli military sources, it is my understanding that the Israelis entered Gaza to shoot at the Palestinian youths. Your headline would better read, "Israeli troops enter Gaza, Palestinian youth killed".

I would thank you to use the correct wording as to the victim's age. You say a "man" was shot dead but then refer to him as a "boy". Please could you spend a little more time to ask more questions. A person has died. Is it too much to ask for his name?

You write, "The Israeli military said they would investigate the incident but the group "appeared to be planting explosives" ". Is it possible for someone at the BBC to ask a basic question and include the answer in the report as to whether or not there was any actual evidence of explosives? I am sure you know that it is simply routine for Israeli troops to shoot at anyone in firing distance of Israel. There are plenty of reports and videos available showing they have an open-fire policy. Here are some videos that took me moments to find.

Is it possible you could add a mention of Israel's open-fire policy?

You write, "Three Palestinians have been detained", but later you say, "Gaza is controlled by Hamas". Is "detained" the correct word to use? The Israeli troops entered Gaza after all. I'm sure you would never in a million years describe it as "detained" if a Palestinian entered Israel and did the same. Please can you correct this bias.

You write, "Clashes have been relatively rare in Gaza since Israel's military offensive in December and January". In what sense of the word could this situation be described as a "Clash"? This by all accounts was an attack based on unfounded suspicions. Why do you give the reader the impression that somehow the Palestinians were in some state of conflict with the Israeli troops? Please can you correct this bias.

I would like to thank you for mentioning this, "The strips borders, airspace and coast line are controlled by Israel, and Egypt along the southern border. The territory is under a crippling Israeli blockade under which only a limited number of humanitarian goods are allowed in."

I would like a response to all my points.

Update: Reply from BBC 23/Nov/2009

Thank you for your comments regarding this report

There was a great deal of confusion over the ages of the people killedand injured in this violence. Our final version of this report shouldclear all this up. It appears that the person killed was between 18 and22, reports vary. A boy - probably the 16-year-old referred to inearlier reports - was injured, and later detained and taken into Israelfor treatment.

The Israeli troops almost certainly went into Gaza in this incident.This is a very common occurrence and Israel has established an exclusionzone along the border, inside Gaza. The violence probably occurred inthis area or on the Gaza side of the imposed zone. I am afraid we do notknow precisely where the incident happened, nor whether explosives werefound. We did not have reporters on the scene, and the agencies thatprovided information on this, the Israeli army and Palestinians medics,have not provided this level of detail.

It is, of course, possible that the Palestinians were civilian farmerswho got too close to the zone that Israel has imposed. It may be thatthey were militants, as the Israeli military claims. Our report does notlead a reader to a particular conclusion, but presents the facts as weknow them.The final version of the report does not use the word clash.

Best regards,
Middle East desk BBC News website

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Me doing the Rubik Cube in under 2 mins

I know it's showing off but I can't help it. I remember asking my headteacher in junior school, "Can you do my cube Sir?" - The answer came back, "Yes!"

Did he? No! - I stood there for ages waiting for him to do it. The question should have been, "Will you do my cube Sir?" - Bastard.

Well here is me doing the cube in under two minutes. I know it's not as fast as some Japanese toddlers but I thought it was good :)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Iraqi Death Toll in "Tens of Thousands"

Dear Ewen, I hope you are well.

Re: Six years after Iraq invasion, Obama sets out his exit plan

You wrote: "For Iraq, the death toll is unknown, in the tens of thousands, victims of the war, a nationalist uprising, sectarian in-fighting and jihadists attracted by the US presence."

This is something I feel strongly about. Forgive me for saying - I think this paragraph is very lazy, sloppy and vile considering what we now know on the subject of Iraqi mortality. I would never expect you to describe the deaths from 9/11 as 'in the dozens' given the information we have on events that day. So why say in the case of Iraq that the death toll is, "in the tens of thousands"? Can you please tell me what source you used?

Below is some information that shows consensus is actually hundreds of thousands with possibly even over a million people now dead as a consequence of the invasion. I hope you find time to respond.

Iraq Body Count - (Violent deaths only)
Ewen, I suspect you may have used information based on the count provided by Iraq Body Count which as you know is not an estimate but a detailed account of verifiable, violent deaths that have been painstakingly chronicled from cross-checked media reports. This count, of violent deaths, is approaching the 100,000 people mark.

"We've always said our work is an undercount, you can't possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the deaths. Our best estimate is that we've got about half the deaths that are out there." __ John Sloboda,IBC.

WHO, NEJM, Iraq Ministry of Health
The WHO study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that violent deaths for the period of 2003-6 number 151,000. The total excess mortality has been worked out to be approximately 433,000.

Lancet, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
For the same period 2003-6, the Lancet produced a figure of 655,000 Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war.

Opinion Research Business
Further to the Lancet study, the ORB produced a mortality figure that exceeded 1 million people for the period 2003-2007.

Kind regards

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sexing up Iran's nuclear ambitions

Dear complaints,

Can I ask why you made such a simple error here?
What proof do you have that Iran +is+ acquiring nuclear weapons?
You should change this immediately and remind your staff not to sex-up this matter.
"Germany has warned Iran that it would support tougher sanctions if diplomatic efforts to stop the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons broke down"
I would like a reply.

Many thanks.


I don't think we're saying Iran is definitely acquiring nuclear weapons. The sentence talks about "diplomatic efforts to stop the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons" - the efforts may well be based on the belief that Iran is working on weapons, but we haven't said that ourselves. We make clear that Iran denies the claims.

Best wishes,

Ian Jolly
News website

Dear Ian,

Thanks for your reply. I disagree.

As there is no mention of a "belief" in this sentence which you suggest these efforts "may well" be based on, what the sentence is in fact saying is the Iranians have started to acquire nuclear weapons and there are ongoing diplomatic efforts to stop them.

"Iran says it wants the uranium for nuclear power, not weapons"
You mention that you have made it "clear that Iran denies the claims" but what good is this denial when you state as fact that they have started acquiring nuclear weapons? This portrays Iran as liars and is hardly impartial.

Please reconsider and rephrase the sentence in question.

Many thanks.

Revisionista: This article

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Controlling Gaza

Dear complaints,

In article
Israel expels Gaza aid ship team

"The Israeli military said no weapons had been found on the ship.Earlier it had said the ship could be a security threat or be used for smuggling banned equipment."

But in this article,
Hamas police 'seize aid for Gaza'

"However, the UN, along with most of the Western world, does not deal directly with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip."

This is just one of many instances of contradiction found on the bbc website with regard to who controls Gaza.

In the first instance, you use the words, "smuggling banned equipment". This says to me that Israel is the law here and they control what goes in and what comes out.

In the latter, you are telling me that Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.

How can they have control if they don't control their borders like every other government around the world? Why does someone in control have to "smuggle" anything? Israel just places an order with the U.S. for military equipment but this isn't classed as smuggling for some reason by the BBC. If Hamas are in control, when did they make a list of, "banned equipment"?

I'd like an explanation please and if possible a rethink of the way you use these key phrases. A high proportion of my emails do not get answered within 10 days if at all. I would like a response.

Many thanks

Friday, 16 January 2009

BBC Exchange: Who Broke The 2008 6 Month Truce

Dear Complaints,

My complaint is about this paragraph on the Who Are Hamas Page

"Hamas security control made Gaza a more calm and orderly place than it had been for months. But Israel tightened its blockade on the Strip and - despite a multilateral ceasefire in June 2008 - rocket fire and Israeli raids continued to provide provocations for more violence by each side."
I watched a More4 news programmme where Mark Regev agreed that Hamas didn't fire ANY rockets before Israel fired on what they claimed to be Palestinians digging tunnels in order to kidnap soldiers. Mr Regev said that because a tunnel was being dug, Hamas broke the ceasefire!

Please will you ammend your article?

From: NewsOnline Complaints
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 9:42 AM
Subject: RE: Complaint


Many thanks for your e-mail. We're happy that our article is a fair reflection of events. There was certainly some rocket fire during that period, but on a very small scale, and obviously not enough to provoke Israel into retaliatory action. There may be a semantic difference between that and what Mr Regev apparently told More 4, but we're not minded to change our article, certainly not on the basis of what someone was heard to say on a rival TV channel.

Best wishes,

News website

Dear Ian,

Thanks for your reply. If you will not change your article on the basis of what I heard on More4, why then don't you change it on the basis of what is wrote in the report by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center, (IICC), which by the way is routinely cited on the Israeli government websites and I notice recently on the bbc website.

note red highlights:

4.An analysis of the situation on the ground indicates two distinct periods: i) A period of relative quiet between June 19 and November 4 : As of June 19, there was a marked reduction in the extent of attacks on the western Negev population. The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations, in some instance in defiance of Hamas (especially by Fatah and Al-Qaeda supporters). Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire. The IDF refrained from undertaking counterterrorism activities in the Gaza Strip, taking only routine defensive security measures along the border fence. Between June 19 and November 4, 20 rockets (three of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) and 18 mortar shells (five of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) were fired at Israel .


14. As soon as the lull arrangement went into effect there was a marked decrease in the extent of rocket and mortar shell attacks against the western Negev population and the Ashqelon region. There was relative calm in Sderot and the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip, although the calm was disrupted by sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire and occasionally by light arms fire and attempts to place IEDs by rogue terrorist organizations (primarily networks of Fatah, the Popular Resistance Committees and other small groups, some of them affiliated with Al-Qaeda). Hamas, for its part, was careful to maintain the ceasefire. IDF forces refrained from undertaking counterterrorism activities in the Gaza Strip and only carried out defensive security activity around the border security fence to prevent attacks. That was the situation on the ground before November 4. During the first period 20 rockets were fired, three of which fell inside the Gaza Strip, and 18 mortar shells, five of which fell inside the Gaza Strip.

15. The sporadic rocket fire during this period was generally carried out in response to what the rogue organizations called “Israeli violations” of the arrangement. In certain instances there were attacks to protest the fact that the arrangement had not been extended to Judea and Samaria; that was noticeable from the beginning of the lull. For example, on June 24 three rockets were fired at Sderot, the first Palestinian violation of the arrangement, after a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative was killed in Nablus (in Samaria), despite the fact that Judea and Samaria were not included in the lull arrangement, and both terrorist attacks and counterterrorism activities were carried out there at that time.

16. Networks belonging to Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were the most prominent and central in violating the lull arrangement. Their motivation was the desire to show themselves as the standard bearers of the “resistance” (i.e., terrorism) and to send a message of defiance to Hamas, their rivals, even though Fatah in Judea and Samaria renounced the attacks.5 In certain instances the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or other organizations fired rockets. In most instances they did not publicly claim responsibility. Such attacks were motivated by deep internal Palestinian rivalries, especially between Fatah and Hamas, and not responses to “violations” on the part of Israel.

17. During the first period Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire and its operatives were not involved in rocket attacks. At the same time, the movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it. Hamas took a number of steps against networks which violated the arrangement, but in a limited fashion and contenting itself with short-term detentions and confiscating weapons. For example, a number of times Hamas’s security services detained Fatah/Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives, including Abu Qusai, an Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades spokesman, who claimed responsibility for rocket fire (June 29). Detained operatives were released after a short interrogation and no real measures were taken against them. However, it was clear that throughout the first period Hamas sought to avoid direct confrontations with the rogue organizations (especially the PIJ) insofar as was possible, lest it be accused of collaborating with Israel and harming the “resistance.” Hamas therefore focused on using politics to convince the organizations to maintain the lull arrangement and on seeking support for it within Gazan public opinion (including issuing statements by its activists regarding the lull’s achievements).

19. The second period of the arrangement began with Hamas’s preparations to abduct an Israeli or Israelis through a tunnel dug under the border security fence. In our assessment, those who planned it had to take into consideration that such an attack would do great harm to the arrangement, but nevertheless Hamas was eager to have another Israeli hostage to use as a bargaining chip.6 Following information, the IDF went into action close to the border, prevented the attack and killed seven Hamas terrorist operatives. Hamas responded with a massive barrage of rocket and mortar shell fire, unprecedented since the lull arrangement had gone into effect.

From: NewsOnline Complaints
Sent: Friday, January 16, 2009 4:23 PM
Subject: RE: Complaint

Thanks for that information. Our view is that Hames did not explicitly maintain the ceasefire in that rockets were fired into Israel during the truce period. While some may well have come from other groups, some did come from Hamas-controlled territory, so could not feasibly have been fired by anyone else. However, the attacks were not enough to provoke Israel into direct retaliation and the ceasefire held. But as I said earlier, we are happy with our wording.

Best wishes,